Professor Andrew Duncan... spoke...about him with the warmest affection forty-seven years after his death when I was a young medical student at Edinburgh...
"About the character of his second son, Erasmus (born 1759), I have little to say, for though he wrote poetry, he seems to have had none of the other tastes of his father. He had, however, his own peculiar tastes, viz., genealogy, the collecting of coins, and statistics. When a boy he counted all the houses in the city of Lichfield, and found out the number of inhabitants in as many as he could; he thus made a census, and when a real one was first made, his estimate was found to be nearly accurate. His disposition was quiet and retiring. My father had a very high opinion of his abilities, and this was probably just, for he would not otherwise have been invited to travel with, and pay long visits to, men so distinguished in different ways as Boulton the engineer, and Day the moralist and novelist." His death by suicide, in 1799, seems to have taken place in a state of incipient insanity.
Robert Waring, the father of Charles Darwin, was born May 30, 1766, and entered the medical profession like his father. He studied for a few months at Leyden, and took his M.D. (I owe this information to the kindness of Professor Rauwenhoff, Director of the Archives at Leyden. He quotes from the catalogue of doctors that "Robertus Waring Darwin, Anglo- britannus," defended (February 26, 1785) in the Senate a Dissertation on the coloured images seen after looking at a bright object, and "Medicinae Doctor creatus est a clar. Paradijs." The archives of Leyden University are so complete that Professor Rauwenhoff is able to tell me that my grandfather lived together with a certain "Petrus Crompton, Anglus," in lodgings in the Apothekersdijk. Dr. Darwin's Leyden dissertation was published in the 'Philosophical Transactions,' and my father used to say that the work was in fact due to Erasmus Darwin.--F.D.) at that University on February 26, 1785. "His father" (Erasmus) "brought ('Life of Erasmus Darwin,' page 85.) him to Shrewsbury before he was twenty-one years old (1787), and left him 20 pounds, saying, 'Let me know when you want more, and I will send it you.' His uncle, the rector of Elston, afterwards also sent him 20 pounds, and this was the sole pecuniary aid which he ever received...Erasmus tells Mr. Edgeworth that his son Robert, after being settled in Shrewsbury for only six months, 'already had between forty and fifty patients.' By the second year he was in considerable, and ever afterwards in very large, practice."
Robert Waring Darwin married (April 18, 1796) Susannah, the daughter of his father's friend, Josiah Wedgwood, of Etruria, then in her thirty-second year. We have a miniature of her, with a remarkably sweet and happy face, bearing some resemblance to the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds of her father; a countenance expressive of the gentle and sympathetic nature which Miss Meteyard ascribes to her. ('A Group of Englishmen,' by Miss Meteyard, 1871.) She died July 15, 1817, thirty-two years before her husband, whose death occurred on November 13, 1848. Dr. Darwin lived before his marriage for two or three years on St. John's Hill; afterwards at the Crescent, where his eldest daughter Marianne was born; lastly at the "Mount," in the part of Shrewsbury known as Frankwell, where the other children were born. This house was built by Dr. Darwin about 1800, it is now in the possession of Mr. Spencer Phillips, and has undergone but little alteration. It is a large, plain, square, red-brick house, of which the most attractive feature is the pretty green-house, opening out of the morning-room.
The house is charmingly placed, on the top of a steep bank leading down to the Severn. The terraced bank is traversed by a long walk, leading from end to end, still called "the Doctor's Walk." At one point in this walk grows a Spanish chestnut, the branches of which bend back parallel to themselves in a curious manner, and this was Charles Darwin's favourite tree as a boy, where he and his sister Catherine had each their special seat.